Every day we hear more news about teams clearing cap room for the summer Free Agency bidding. I think it's safe to assume that everyone on ROF knows the Bobcats will be spectators because we lack enough salary cap room to go after anything more than a towel boy. (If you didn't know that, you do now.) Next season isn't going to bring many new faces to the team. Barring an unlikely trade, there is almost no chance whatsoever the Bobcats will have a pick in the draft this season and I can't think of a team that would be willing to let Jordan buy a decent pick with cash even if MJ were willing. Come fall, we'll be looking at another season locked firmly into contract hell. I think the team should be commended for the trades they DID make this season under similar contract restrictions. Jackson was a steal, as were Theo and Tyrus. But I did spend a brief bit of time this morning looking around at the Bobcats' near future.
It doesn't matter whether you loved or hated the Okafor/Chandler deal, the payoff is almost upon us. Had we kept Emeka we'd now be staring at the final three most expensive years of his deal. Instead, we have just one more season with our overpaid and injury-prone center. After next season more than 1/3 of the team salary will vanish. The biggest chunk will be the almost 13 million going into Tyson Chandler's pocket, but we will also be opening almost seven million with Nazr Mohammed's expiring contract. In addition, we'll free up about a million on Stephen Graham.
On top of all this, our pickups from this season are in the mix as well. Larry Hughes is still set to be on the payroll next season but at a measly $375 grand and so is Theo Ratliff at just over 1.3 million. For each of them next season is the final year of their contracts and neither holds options for extensions. We're locked in to Jax, and Tyrus Thomas has a qualifying offer clause in his papers. If we're going to do any trading next season, these four men are likely candidates, along with our sophomores Brown and Henderson.
While it's absurdly early to be looking at this and a lot of it is going to change, the crop of free agents that will be available at the end of next season are worth saving for.
At the very top of the list is Kobe Bryant. Right now the idea of Kobe leaving the Lakers seems laughable, as does the idea that LA would let him go. But the former high school wonderkind is no longer a kid and he's showing signs that he's becoming injury prone as the years start to pile up on his resume. His next contract is likely to be his last major signing. At some point, the Lakers are going to have to look to a new generation and a new budding superstar to build the team around.
The other REALLY big name on the list is Carmello Anthony. The speculation alone is enough to increase my heart rate.
The one thing that really stands out is that most of our expiring paper is at center. I think I have better odds of hitting the Power Ball three weeks in a row than Tyson Chandler has of getting another contract with the Bobcats. He's gone. We brought him here to get rid of him. Nazr is one of my absolute favorite Bobcats and I hate losing him. But I'm also a realist. We have just watched Nazr play the best season of hoops he's ever going to play. Everything from here is a downhill slide as his body ages. He's not going to be much good to us and if we do resign him it's going to be for a very short period and for less than he's presently making. This leaves us with no real center unless you really want to use our last ugly contract by starting Diop. As next season comes to a close we are going to be desperate for a true center. As I said, a lot of this is going to change in the next year, but the Bobcats will finally have some money to play with. We know that our biggest hole is going to be at center and that they don't come cheap. We also know that the need to rebuild the Bobcats is still likely to exceed available cash and draft options. Assuming Michael Jordan is able to lock in Raymond Felton, we'll have a pretty solid start in the backcourt. My question to all of you is - where do we go from there?